Women of the world
Published: Saturday November 22, 2008 in Living in Armenia
Nuevo Vallarta - We live in extraordinary times, to be sure.
I have contemplated the women in my life, the women in Armenia, and the women of the world with pride, with anger, with love, with anticipation, and loss and rage and expectation. They have given me the opportunity to feel moved, profoundly. They have inspired me with their strength and courage.
I have been blessed to meet women who have shown me that it is possible to have change and progress and above all else, hope. Their experiences in this very male-dominated home of all men and women have inspired me. And sometimes it has crippled me. Their voice has been so strong and articulate that it has made mine sound like a whisper.
This is a poem written for the women of Mexico, but its message resonates with every female soul in the world. It begins like this...
Mothers, daughters, sisters, Native Americans, half breeds, white, black. Multiracial. Multicolored. Polyphonic.
Several...bravely...departed many or a few years ago to carry out revolutions, their death clearing the way for us; others, some years ago, raised their voices, their eyes, their body and sprinting like a gazelle or a panther, left their mark along the way.
We still have a lot to do.
Not mince our words.
Not be afraid.
Eradicate opportunism and compromises.
Be tolerant, ever tolerant.
And demand, always, at every moment,
in ever greater numbers,
with a whisper,
with a word,
with a song,
with a slogan,
with a poem,
with a prayer,
with a shout,
with a howl,
To continue with the ceaseless, recurrent, never ending struggle to be able to live.
This excerpt was written by a rural woman, who silently yet courageously rose to prominence in a country rife with poverty, injustice, inequality, crime, and desolation. Beatriz Paredes rose to the highest office in politics in her country. She leads millions of supporters. She is the leader of the PRI party of Mexico, yet she has never forgotten her sisters dying in the fields that feed her people. She has never forgotten the women who are abused and ignored and marginalized. She is not afraid to raise her voice to be heard so that she can help the women who came before her and those who will come after her. She is not afraid to speak of women's rights.
Where are the women leaders of Armenia? Some women are members of parliament, some work in the executive branch of the government, but most of these women have forgotten where they came from. They have forgotten the stories of their mothers. They have forgotten that their daughters will have to struggle for something that they should have resolved in their lifetime.
And what about Armenian women?
From access to healthcare, to poverty, to ignorance, to abuse, to silent systematic barriers to their advancement in society, Armenian women have lost their voice. Yes, there are organizations in the diaspora that claim to speak about women's issues, but I wonder what they have done for the women in Armenia. Yes, there are nongovernmental agencies in Armenia who work in the field of women's rights but they are few and unable to create a real movement.
Reports are published from time to time about the status of women in Armenia. Amnesty International, on November 12, released the following report: "National surveys suggest that more than a quarter of women in Armenia have faced physical violence at the hands of husbands or other family members. Many of these women have little choice but to remain in abusive situations as reporting violence is strongly stigmatized in Armenian society. Violence in the family takes many forms, ranging from isolation and the withholding of economic necessities, to physical and sexual violence, and even murder, yet women have few options to escape situations in which they are at risk."
Armenia's penal code does not even mention domestic violence. Shelters for abused women are not encouraged. People see them as an infringement on family life. Domestic violence, sexual abuse after all is a family matter, is it not? We are afraid to say loudly and publicly that which is taking place in the homeland. It is a national shame. It makes me sick. It enrages me. And yet, here I am, a woman, not doing much other than writing about it.
And where are you? Where is that Armenian woman I thought existed? The one who wasn't afraid to shout from the rooftops against the aggressions forced on her people. Why is she not shouting for her own rights? Why are we so afraid to look into the face of abuse and say, "No more"?
Why are we not talking about the reproductive health of women in this country? Why are we not talking about the thousands of women in Armenia using abortion as a means of fertility regulation? Why are women dying when they can be living, raising their children, helping to create a better society? Why is it that women in other societies and countries are not afraid to engage their public about the issues affecting women?
These are questions I pose for whoever wants to listen. These are problems I lay at our feet.
I am not a poet. But I want to write a poem for the women of Armenia.
I want to tell them that they are the rulers of their lives. I want them to know that they must find the inner strength, the fortitude to face down all those who wish to oppress them. I want them to live and laugh and cry and rejoice. I want them to be empowered. I want them to love and be loved, genuinely, unconditionally, faithfully. I want them to raise their sons and daughters equally. I want them to fear no more. I want them to be able to forge a future for our people, for this tiny homeland nestled amongst mountains, to walk side by side with the men who claim to have the answers to all our misfortunes. I want them to look in the mirror and feel pride and confidence. I want them to know that the world awaits them. That their people needs them. That their children deserve them.